Friday, January 11, 2008

Sign O the times

The specifics of the ever-ascendant Obama campaign have been examined inside and out, six ways to Sunday; journalists and instapundits like Culchavox will go a long way to make sure that microvetting process continues. But there’s one aspect of the Obama campaign identity that hasn’t gotten much attention, something that seems to be working almost subliminally.

In a phrase: “Gimme an ‘O.’”

The Obama campaign logo has proven to be an incredibly versatile avatar for the candidate and his message, in ways that aren’t immediately apparent.

The logo has a visual appeal that extends beyond the usual tiresome variations on a flag-draped theme we see so often in candidate logos. It’s an overdone trope of American politics: the candidate’s name side-swiped by a rising star (see John Edwards’ logo) or intertwined with a tweak on the colors of the American flag (look at Hillary’s logo). All of which makes the Obama logo such a striking departure.

On the Obama campaign Web site blog, one woman, “Obama Mama,” took note in a posting from last Feb. 22:

“One huge trend in design right now is the circle. Circles represent infinity, protectiveness (think of encircling arms), and even the Earth. Many women I see wear a diamond circle on a chain around their necks. You see retro circle designs on everything from lithographs to home decor to wrapping paper … This is why I think the graphics people for Senator Obama's campaign are right on the money. Using the O from his name to design his logo is both clever and creative.

“And, as a side note, being a suburban woman, I can safely say that many women I know associate O with Oprah (not to mention the catchphrases "the Big O" and "it's all about the O") ...”

The Obama logo as a subliminal reference to orgasm? We’d rather not go too far in exploring this last point. Some things are best left speculated about — in private.

On the same Web site last Feb. 14, Tower9 explores another side to the logo’s possible subconscious appeal. “Instead of a design it's a message. It appeals to the right brain and conveys an [unconscious] message with archetypal images. … It's the world with a rising sun. It's a row of farmland with a vanishing point going off towards the future. It's America's road to the future, and the circle represents wholeness.”

The Obama campaign has also released variations on its own theme, tweaks in the initial design that embrace various groups. One emblazoned with the words “Obama Pride” adopts the rainbow motif of the GLBT community. Another one, headed Kids for Obama, is an apparently hand-drawn variation of the Obama logo, done in what looks like crayon. The symbol for Environmentalists for Obama features the Obama logo rendered in earth tones — green and gold.

“Know your audience,” the phrase goes. Whether it’s a phrase originally meant for actors, lawyers or authors doesn’t really matter. That advice has a new adherent in the world of American politics.

We’re waiting on the bumperstrip for Concrete Formsetters for Obama.

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